The runtime for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has been revealed. At 155 minutes, it’s the longest Star Wars flick ever. But what does that mean? And does it matter?
If you don’t count The Last Jedi the runtime average Star Wars movie is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long. And by average, I mean, mathematically as well as “common.” The universally loved Star Wars movies are all almost exactly 2 hours (A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back) and longer Star Wars movies (like Attack of the Clones an The Last Jedi) tend to generate controversy. Everything in between (like Solo and The Force Awakens) are about 2:15. So, what does the runtime of Rise of Skywalker say about the movie itself?
Answer: Right now, the best way to think of it is this: It’s still much shorter than Avengers: Endgame and only three minutes longer than The Last Jedi.
Now, as I’ve meticulously pointed out joked before, in terms of screen time, you can blow up the Death Star in 6 minutes. So, with three extra minutes, The Rise of Skywalker could (metaphorically or actually) blow up half a Death Star, which, when you consider we’ve got some Death Star wreckage in the trailer, kind of already makes sense. The point is, a Star Wars movie can do a lot with a small amount of time. Or, if you think about the scene in Attack of the Clones where C-3PO’s head gets put on the body of a battle droid, a Star Wars movie can also do very little with a lot of time.
Just to refresh your memory, here are the run times of all the Star Wars movies, to date, in release order. Before the tickets were actually on sale, we all thought the movie was maybe 2 hours and 15 minutes, but now that all the ticket-buying websites have listed the showtimes for opening weekend, it’s very clear how long this sucker is.
A New Hope: 125 minutes (2 hours and 5 mins)
The Empire Strikes Back: 127 minutes (2 hours and 7 minutes)
Return of the Jedi: 136 minutes (2 hours and 16 minutes)
The Phantom Menace: 136 minutes (2 hours and 16 minutes)
Attack of the Clones: 142 minutes (2 hours and 22 minutes)
Revenge of the Sith: 140 minutes (2 hours and 20 minutes)
The Force Awakens: 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes)
Rogue One : 133 minutes (2 hours and 13 minutes)
The Last Jedi: 152 minutes (2 hours and 32 minutes)
Solo: 135 minutes (2 hours and 15 minutes)
The Rise of Skywalker: 155 minutes (2 hours and 35 minutes)
By no stretch of the imagination, is 2 hours and 35 minutes a long movie, relative to other movies, but it does seem to follow in the astral-projection footsteps of The Last Jedi. If you don’t like The Last Jedi, conventional wisdom suggests you’d be suspicious of extra-long run time for The Rise of Skywalker. But that’s not how this is going to play out. Even the biggest hater in the world probably happy that Rise of Skywalker is on the long side of the Force, and that’s because there’s just a lot to cover.
In some ways, you could argue that anything under three hours for the movie that is supposed to wrap-up a nine-part-film-saga is actually modest. When you consider all the boxes J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio have to check with this script, 155 minutes might actually be too short. I mean, I’ve certainly spent more minutes thinking about Kylo Ren’s gym routine than Kylo Ren is on the screen in Force Awakens and Last Jedi. The information in a Star Wars fan has a kind of magic effect of time dilation. These films and scenes, when they are well executed, feel longer than they are. Famously (and infamously, according to Carrie Fisher and others) the only real guidance George Lucas gave the actors on the original film was “faster and more intense!”
Unlike Rian Johnson, who took his time with several key scenes in The Last Jedi (for better or worse) J.J. Abrams is the heir to the “faster and more intense” school of making an outer-space epic. Don’t believe me? Go watch the opening scene of his 2009 Star Trek reboot. It’s a masterclass in setting emotional stakes in a tiny amount of screen time. I’m not sure Abrams’s movies are the deepest films I’ve ever seen in the action/sci-fi genre, but because he favors emotional aesthetics over narrative, even long scenes in his movies seem short. Things don’t have to make sense in a J.J. Abrams movie as long as you feel something. Spock “igniting the red matter” in Trek 09 makes zero sense. Ditto for everything about the “map to Luke Skywalker” in Force Awakens. The point? When Abrams is “on” you’re not thinking at all, you’re just feeling.
This is why the scene where the Enterprise rises up out of the water at the beginning of Star Trek Into Darkness works… and everything about Cumberbatch’s “plan” doesn’t work. It’s also why the lightsaber flying into Rey’s hands in The Force Awakens is great, but thinking about Starkiller Base will make you angry. The longer Abrams lingers on ideas related to the mechanics of the plot, the worse the movie will seem. So, since he has more time in The Rise of Skywalker, we could be in the danger zone. This movie needs to make us feel all the feelings, but there is some plot stuff to cover, too. If you rewatchInto Darkness, you will certainly be worried about this specific aspect of his filmmaking. (In fairness, Abrams did not write the script for Into Darkness; that was Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote a pretty solid script for the first Trek reboot in 2009. This is like the reverse of Chris Terrio working on the script for Rise of Skywalker. No one likes Justice League — which he also wrote — meaning maybe Episode IX will be his moment.)
Then again, in some ways, J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio didn’t write The Rise of Skywalker alone. They’ve got the entire narrative of eight other movies pushing them along. Which, though might be a burden in some ways, might have also helped hurry along with certain aspects of the plot. One way to think about The Rise of Skywalker is that it doesn’t need to have a beginning or even a middle. This whole thing is an ending. And, when you add everything up, all the movies in the Skywalker saga so far total to just about 19 hours. So, if this is a 19-hour epic, then 2 hours and 35 minutes for an ending chapter actually seems like a bargain.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out everywhere on December 19 in the evening at limited screenings and December 20 in wide release.